Palestine has always looked beyond its border to bolster its talent pool but with the FIFA Arab Cup fast approaching it was looking increasingly unlikely that the squad would include many players born abroad.
In the initial 24-man squad released to the press only three players were born outside of Palestine: Goalkeeper Amr Kaddoura, defender Yaser Hamed Mayor, and attacker Mahmoud Eid. Several players that would have been in line for a call-up where prevented from joining due to club commitments.The failed attempts to call several Palestinians plying their trade abroad was cited in the initial squad announcement posted on the Palestine Football Association’s Facebook Page.
The players mentioned were Saleh Chihadeh (FC Thun/Switzerland), Badr Moussa (Ghazl El-Mahala/Egypt), Mahmoud Wadi (Pyramids SC/Egypt), Jonathan Cantillana (PSIS Semarang/Indonesia) and bizarrely Pablo Tamburrini (Deportes Valdivia/Chile). The national team is still trying to secure the release of Oday Dabbagh but he seems unlikely to leave his Portuguese club.
A player that did not get a mention in the announcement was Mohamed Alghoul. A name that popped up in the initial roster that was posted on the FIFA website but one that is unknown to even the most ardent of Palestine supporters.
Football Palestine has learned that the mysterious name in question is not a WBPL or Gaza League player but in fact a former Croatia youth international with one cap to his name with Croatia’s U21 team.
Alghoul is currently on the books of second division side NK Dubrava and is his side’s top scorer with four goals from the penalty spot to go along with an assist in 10 starts this season. After making is pro debut with Lokomotiva Zagreb back in 2014 (against Dinamo Zagreb, no less) the prodigious talent was called up to the U20 and then the U21 team where he played alongside several players who would become full Croatia Internationals: Ante Coric (AS Roma), Marko Pasalic (Atalanta), Marko Rog (Cagliari), and Duje Caleta-Car (Marseille).
While Alghoul’s career did not take off after that, he rediscovered his spark in a brief stint in the Swiss fifth tier where as a 22 year old he scored four times and assisted ELEVEN goals in nine games. That stint led to an opportunity with NK Dubrava- where he established himself as a consistent starter over the past three seasons.
The 25 year old’s path the national team was the result of his father sending an email to the Palestine Football Association and after weeks with no response they got back to Alghoul and his father with an invite to play at the FIFA Arab Cup. An attacking midfielder, nicknamed “The Palestinian Modric” and “Fly”, his quickness and dribbling will most likely be deployed in the middle of the pitch as a replacement for the recently retired Nazmi Albadawi.
Long time readers will remember the drama surrounding the courtship of the Sharbini Brothers who flirted with Palestine, and a couple of other teams in the region, and ultimately never played for the national team. In a twist of irony, Muhamed has a brother, 19 year old Halid a Dinamo Zagreb product who plays as a striker for second division side Kustosija Zagreb.
Born to a Palestinian father from Gaza and a Croatian mother from Zagreb, Muhamed will be the third national team player with ties to the former Yugoslavia joining former internationals Rami Rabi (Serbia) and Jaka Ihbeisheh (Slovenia).
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